20 Best Rock Songs of 2016
Before the final note rings out on 2016, we wanted to reflect on the year that was, including the year’s Best Rock Songs. As expected, there is a wide array of sounds that make up this list.
You’ve got some punk-infused awesomeness from The Virginmarys, Blink-182 and A Day to Remember. There’s some soulful, bluesy and even psychedelic sounds coming from Purson, Kaleo, Zakk Wylde, Highly Suspect and The Pretty Reckless.
On the heavier side, you’ll find more aggressive anthems from Alter Bridge, Skillet, Volbeat, Avatar, Sixx: A.M., Beartooth, Rob Zombie and Wolfmother. Elsewhere, you’ll get a tender ballad from Black Stone Cherry, a little bit of night funk from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the ebb and flow atmospherics of Deftones and Disturbed‘s powerful take on a classic song.
So, without further adieu, scroll down and check out our picks for the 20 Best Rock Songs of 2016.
“The Eagle Has Landed”
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s kick off the list of the 20 Best Rock Songs of 2016 with Avatar‘s “The Eagle Has Landed.” The band delivers the prerequisite heaviness needed to make the cut, opening with some killer low end, but where the song starts to stand out is with the swinging and ultimately catch choruses. “The Eagle Has Landed” is a true earworm that you’ll probably be humming later today.
Feeling disillusioned? Man, have The Virginmarys got the anthem for you. “Into Dust” deals with the angst of the boredom of modern society with a driving snarl and aggression that will have you fist-pumping in no time. It’s a slow-builder that really takes off and climaxes with an Ally Dickaty primal scream unleashing all of his frustration. Turn it up, rock it out and let it go!
“Show Me a Leader”
You may not normally think of Alter Bridge as a political band, but the band couldn’t help but be influenced by the general disillusionment of society with their current leaders, which led to their anthemic song “Show Me a Leader.” They embrace the disillusionment, while putting out a wish for a leader who won’t compromise, one who makes sure that hope never dies. That’s a message we can all get behind, and the Mark Tremonti guitar work on this track is just a bonus.
“The Window Cleaner”
Who’s ready to get a little psychedelic? One listen to Purson‘s “The Window Cleaner” and you might wonder what year it is, as the band feels like a transplant from the late ’60s. Vocalist Rosalie Cunningham leads us through a hazy, distortion-filled journey, so why not sit back, chill out and enjoy this ride along with her.
This one will get you up and moving! Skillet‘s chart-topper “Feel Invincible” quite simply is undeniable. This uplifting rock anthem has that kick in the pants to get you going and it feels like the ultimate sports anthem. That’s probably why it’s been co-opted for many a sports promo over the last year. Raise your fists and rock along!
Like Alter Bridge earlier in this countdown, you wouldn’t necessarily think of Sixx: A.M. as a political band, but the onslaught of negative political coverage inspired the band to look at the process and thus “Rise” was born. Nikki Sixx has stated that the song is to remind us that we all have a voice and can spur change. And while the track was inspired by politics, it has a message that’s universally empowering. So when you sense it’s time for something different, realize it’s the dawn of a new day and “Rise.”
What’s this? The opening of the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ “Dark Necessities” doesn’t feel much like the band we know, but then a Flea bass line and Anthony Kiedis’ rhythmic patter as he dances around the vocals kicks in. But overall, the song finds the band breaking out of a too familiar rut and giving us something different, with the piano addition adding a little night time vibe to the song. It’s an exploration into the beauty of our darker side that feels oh so right.
“Bored to Death”
There is life for Blink-182 after Tom DeLonge. The band hit their mark on their first new song without the singer as fans lauded “Bored to Death” as a return to form. This reflective rocker primarily featured Mark Hoppus on vocals, with Matt Skiba ably backing him, and proved to be one of their most vital singles released in quite some time.
Though Black Stone Cherry can deliver a rocker with the best of them, the band made their biggest impact in 2016 by tugging at the heartstrings with their ballad, “The Rambler.” The song speaks to the sacrifices made by bands and their families in order to bring the music to the people and definitely captures the emotions of leaving loved ones behind. “There’s just something about that song,” says vocalist Chris Robertson. “I remember being in the studio and I was singing it and trying to keep back from crying the whole time, thinking about my grandpa and just being away from my kid and wife and stuff and I got to the last chorus and just had to stop.”
Though not the big single from the album, there’s something about “Loser” that stands out for Beartooth. Singer Caleb Shomo and his band deliver an adrenaline-infused rocker with a message that there’s something to be said for individuality. “I tried to fit in, I got sick of it,” belts Shomo at one point, while later concluding, “I’m learning my worth is more than your word.”
“The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”
Volbeat got off to a great start this year with their standout single “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown.” The driving rocker offers a perfect blend of aggression and melody for vocalist Michael Poulsen, while letting the story play out. Poulsen takes us through what seems to be the devil’s demise, only for the dark one to come calling in a frightening way when least expected.
“Way Down We Go”
Newcomers Kaleo hit it big this year, with “Way Down We Go” really making its mark. Opening with almost a gospel delivery, JJ Julius Son sets the tone with the line, “Oh father tell me / We get what we deserve.” From there, it’s a bluesy journey as the foot-stomping beats feel like an ominous march toward a dark date with destiny. Simply put, Kaleo really captured a mood like no other with this one.
There are few rockers that capture the glory of ’70s hard rock as well as Wolfmother, and their latest album Victorious was viewed as a return to form. Andrew Stockdale really hit a home run with “Gypsy Caravan,” a fuzzed out rocker with undeniable guitar parts and stellar stop-and-start drum moments. This all plays out while telling the story of an isolated man fascinated by the eye-catching appeal of the mysterious gypsy caravan.
Rob Zombie has a knack for that over-the-top, full throttle gore-infused rock and he scores again this year with “In the Age of the Consegrated Vampire, We All Get High.” Driving guitars, random inserted dialogue and pure Zombie aggression drive the song. The singer has made a career off of this style of music, and as he says in the song, “I’m wicked / So hideous / I’m morbid / Don’t f–k with this.” It definitely works well, so who are we to question.
While Zakk Wylde is known for rocking out with Black Label Society, he has shown a knack for occasionally dipping into a more somber, bluesy side and doing it with aplomb. With the decision to release the solo album, Book of Shadows II, this year, Wylde had the platform to explore that side more fully and he excels with the album centerpiece, “Sleeping Dogs.” This mournful, soulful track gets an assist from Corey Taylor, and while Wylde’s playing continues to shine, his vocals and songwriting should not be overlooked.
Make way! It’s time to hit the pit. A Day to Remember delivered a ticking time bomb of a song earlier this year with “Paranoia.” This surefire pit-starter opens with a guitar that sounds like a siren, just waiting for Jeremy McKinnon’s “Go” to set things in motion. With pedal firmly on the metal, A Day to Remember have a guaranteed concert favorite for years to come.
“My Name Is Human”
Highly Suspect delve into themes of personal identity and human connection with their breakout single from The Boy Who Died Wolf album, “My Name Is Human.” This chart-topper chugs along at a slow pace, but rides on Johnny Stevens’ vocal gymnastics as bounds rhythmically through the verses before truly connecting with an emotional delivery in the chorus. The band ended the year with a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song for this stellar offering.
“Take Me Down”
If Taylor Momsen sold her soul for rock and roll, she damn well got a great song out of it. The Pretty Reckless pick right up from the success of their previous album with this track influenced by the legendary story of the Mississippi Delta spot where musicians were said to have bartered with the devil for fame and success. Momsen’s rasp and soulful deliver sells the track and the addition of backing vocalists belting “Sign with the devil” seal the deal. “Take Me Down” rock, rock, rocks as one of the year’s best.
“Prayers / Triangles”
When the Deftones are on top of their game, there are few that compare. The band has a knack for exploring the heavy-soft dynamics and “Prayers / Triangles” delivers that ebb and flow with trippy awesomeness. It’s rare that a song can be called “heavy” and “soothing,” but it fits here with the band laying it all on the line about the dealing with the demons inside.
“The Sound of Silence”
There were likely more than a few head scratches when “The Sound of Silence” turned up on Disturbed‘s Immortalized track listing, but that confusion was quickly cleared up once fans heard the song. David Draiman’s vocal chops are well known at this point, but the power, emotion and personal connection to the Simon and Garfunkel classic really sells the Disturbed version. The band also did an admirable job of honoring the classic while finding place in the arrangement to make it their own. Simply put, this version transcended in 2016, not only ruling the rock charts, finishing the year as one of the most played songs, but also introducing Disturbed to new fans outside of the hard rock and metal genre. This was the torch-bearer in 2016 and stands a worthy entrant as our Best Rock Song of 2016.